Home » 11 Books For The Car Enthusiast In Your Life – Autopian Gift Guide

11 Books For The Car Enthusiast In Your Life – Autopian Gift Guide

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It’s a myth that gearheads don’t read. Gearheads love to read and there’s been an enormous increase in books to appealing to the car lover over the last couple of years. Below is a list of books I recommend either for yourself or for someone you know that enjoys cars and a good book. Specifically, there are a lot of books here that explain the modern car industry.

[Ed note: This is one of our holiday gift guides, which is a service we’re doing to help everyone with their end-of-year shopping. This post also contains some affiliate links, which means we might get paid a commission if you buy something listed here or, usually, anything else on one of the sites. We won’t do this often, but it’s a way to support the site if you’re so inclined.]

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Racing with Rich Energy: How a Rogue Sponsor Took Formula One for a Ride
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A well-reported and often hilarious romp through the twists and turns of the Rich Energy saga in Formula 1, “Racing with Rich Energy” is a tale that’s so ridiculous it’s hard to believe it’s not fiction. The book was written by our pals Alanis King and Elizabeth Blackstock who dive deep into just how a guy with $770 in his pocket convinced the sport he could spend the millions of dollars necessary to prop up a new racing team. Whether you’re a long time F1 fan or just got into the sport because of “Drive to Survive,” the book is an excellent companion piece for even the most casual fan.

Where to buy: Amazon (paperback and Kindle)


A Quiet Greatness
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“A Quiet Greatness” is by far the most exquisite (and expensive) book on the list. Numbering over 1,300 pages of rare and glossy photos on heavy 100-lb art stock, this four-volume set about the history of Japanese cars is as much a work of art as some of the cars it covers. We had the authors Myron Vernis and Mark Brinker on our podcast and they go into all it took to make the book and why it’s so important. It’s $350 but it’s worth every penny and they’re only going to print a limited number so it’s a collector’s item.

Where to buy: Directly from the authors

Travels With Charley
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John Steinbeck is one of the great American authors of the 20th century and there’s plenty of his fiction worth suggesting, but nothing quite captures the feeling of adventure and travel possible in this vast country like “Travels with Charley” does. Steinbeck and his dog Charley set out in his converted GMC camper (appropriately named Rocinante — see above pic of me with Roci at the Steinbeck Museum.) to find America. His quote about Texas is still my favorite: “For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.” Damn, that’s just good writing.

Where to buy: Amazon, or honestly just check it out from the library


Across The Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings
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Cars… in space. Author Earl Swift is one of the keenest chroniclers of automotive history working right now and he brings a historian’s eye to his books (I can also recommend The Big Roads as probably the best modern take on the creation of the American interstate system you can read). I thought I had a good understanding of the history of NASA’s lunar rover until I read “Across the Airless Wilds” and realized how much I didn’t know about the crash program by Boeing and GM to build it. Almost as fascinating is the history of the Chrysler and Bendix proposals that didn’t make it.

Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover and Kindle)

Survival Of The Fastest: Weed, Speed, and the 1980s Drug Scandal That Shocked the Sports World
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The story of Randy Lanier was first told by Patrick George at the old lighting site and it still captivates today. A gifted driver with an entrepreneurial spirit and a habit for trouble, Lanier was able to fund his racing dreams by smuggling weed into Florida. Drugs, race cars, speedboats. It’s basically a Michael Mann movie. The driver (with help from AJ Baime) recalls in “Survival of the Fastest” how he almost turned his drug business into a racing career and managed to become the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year before ending up facing a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. Lanier is not a trained writer but he is a natural storyteller and one who doesn’t spare his ego in admitting how he screwed up his life.


Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover and Kindle)

Robot Take The Wheel: The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Last Art of Driving
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Please excuse the nestling doll of plugs here, but I’d be remiss to not mention our Jason Torchinsky’s “Robot Take the Wheel” about what potential and pitfalls exist with self-driving cars. More than just a discussion about the technical realities of autonomous driving, Jason invites the reader to reconsider what these new machines mean for humanity and car culture. As a bonus, Beau wrote the forward!

Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover and Kindle)

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans
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If you’ve seen “Ford vs. Ferrari” you have seen a fairly good retelling of the spirit of Ford’s battle with Enzo Ferrari. I am pro-movie. However, the movie isn’t as good or as accurate as the book on which it is based (though Tracy Letts is perfect as Henry Ford II). Journalist and writer A.J. Baime is our most prolific automotive storyteller and it doesn’t get much better than “Go Like Hell.” In particular, the book does a great job of explaining why Ken Miles is a hero and doesn’t do Leo Beebe dirty (as the film does).

Where to buy: Amazon (all formats)

Boundless: The Rise, Fall, and Escape of Carlos Ghosn
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Here are how most automotive CEO books go: Adversity, spark of genius, profits, car, adversity, spark of genius, car, boring family aside, profits. “Boundless: The Rise, Fall, and Escape of Carlos Ghosh” tells the story of the infamous Nissan-Renault executive and features about 100% more Japanese prisons, green berets, manga, and daring escapes (take that Lee Iacocca’s autobiography!). This book was written by the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Kostov and Sean McLain and it’ll soon show up on Apple TV. Read it before it does!

Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover and Kindle)


Road To Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong About The Future Of Transportation
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This book was suggested by our pal Zack Klapman, who just finished it and says it gives a great look at how Bird’s scooters quickly became too broken to use and how the whole micromobility push over the last few years was built on questionable assumptions. I’m looking forward to reading this one, as well.

Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover and Kindle)

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip
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I love nonfiction books and I love nonfiction books about Harry Truman (I could literally do a gift guide that is just books about Harry Truman). The best book about Harry Truman is definitely David McCullough’s Pulitzer-winning “Truman.” The funniest book about Harry Truman, though? That honor goes to Matthew Algeo’s “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.” Algeo captures what happened when Harry and Bess Truman decided to buy a Chrysler and drive across the country to see some of their friends. It’s completely unfathomable today and was mostly unfathomable at the time (especially to the Secret Service, which was quite surprised by the trip and had to scramble to keep the Trumans safe). It is the unlikeliest of stories and represents a brief moment in time where this was possible.


Where to buy: Amazon (all formats)

Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors
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There’s no shortage of books/tv segments/podcasts/stories about the genius of Elon Musk. As may have become clear to you recently, Musk is not perfect. Edward Niedermeyer’s book “Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors” has gotten a lot more attention lately as Musk contends with his purchase of Twitter. If you want to hear about how Tesla came about in a book that actually mentions Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning it’s worth picking up.

Where to buy: Amazon (hardcover, paperback and Kindle)

Photo credits: Amazon, Nissan, Tesla

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